Tag Archives: different

My Special Needs Mother Hat

18 Feb

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

I talk a lot about my journey to obtain my special needs mother hat. I don’t know why I use this term. I guess it just gives me a good descriptive picture in my head and explains a major role I play.

To me, this hat looks different than a mother hat. My mother hat fit well the first time I put it on. It was easy to wear, simple, elegant, and light. It was beautiful from the beginning and did not tear easily. When it did, I could take it off at night and stitch up any holes it acquired during the day. My stitching was never loose, came apart or was crooked. It always came back together nicely. It rarely fell off and never seemed heavy. I was proud to wear it and frequently showed it off. I enjoyed this new hat tremendously and was very reluctant to turn it in for my special needs mother hat.

When I got this hat it was WAY too big. It fell off all of the time. Sometimes it just blew right off my head. In the beginning I forgot that I had it and a big gust of wind would come along and POOF! Gone. I would have to go chasing it down the street. Sometimes I threw it to the floor in a moment of rage, frustration, or grief. And sometimes I just tried to leave it on the counter at home. I tried to pretend that I didn’t have it and that it wasn’t sitting there waiting to adorn my head like a 1000lb weight. It was extremely heavy. It had all kinds of straps, buckles, and ties attached to it that I couldn’t figure out. It had random flowers on it with names that I couldn’t pronounce. It was uncomfortable and became worn out looking. Rips and tears began to decorate the sides and no matter how hard I tried to stitch it up, my stitching never fixed the holes. They were loose, crooked and simply came apart by an unexpected tug in the wrong way. The whole hat would just fall apart. I would carry my hat in pieces back home and painstakingly try to put it all back together. At first it seemed destined to be big, ugly, uncomfortable, and prone to making me feel like an outsider. It seemed nobody had a hat that looked like mine.

After I wore it for a while, I began to notice other mothers whose hats looked like mine. They were worn and tattered, but had been repaired with beautiful hand crafted stitching and appeared loved and cherished. These mothers looked at me in my hat and smiled a knowing smile and pointed to their heads. “See. I’m proud of my hat. It may appear complicated and worn out to you, but to me it’s beautiful. Your hat will be beautiful too one day.”

Slowly I began to notice new things about this hat that I hated at first. I was learning to pronounce the names of the flowers on it and figuring out the buckles and straps. It wasn’t so big anymore and no longer blew unexpectedly off my head. It began to fit better as each day I grew a little more confident in my role. Every once in a while I still throw it to the floor, but now my reasons are different. It still gets ripped and torn, but I am learning to sew it back up and now my stitches hold it together. It doesn’t fall apart so easily and my stitches are straighter and stronger. I’ve learned to love each and every rip, tear, crease, and stain on my hat because each one has a story. A moment in time and a memory of where I have been and what I have gone through. It isn’t so uncomfortable now and it doesn’t make me feel like an outsider. Now it makes me feel like part of a group. A group of mothers with special hats and special roles that we love and feel honored to have. Now I’m not ashamed of my hat and I never try to forget it on the counter. I walk out of my house each day with my head held up high. Proud to show off my journey with my special needs mother hat.

This One’s Broken

10 Feb

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” -Ernest Hemingway

The geneticist we saw was a large, friendly woman with a warm smile and a gentle nature. I was not quite as nervous when she asked if she could now perform a physical examination of Oli. I thought, “This woman is so nice she can’t possibly give me any more bad news.”

She started examining every inch of Oli’s little body and then offering phrases to her assistant. I was listening intently as she rattled off terminology to describe my Oli for her chart. Terminology that I was familiar with. I was starting to think that this woman wasn’t so nice.

“Extremely small eye sockets characteristic of microphthalmia and anophthalmia, hypotonia exhibited in all major muscles, microcephaly, congenital mid line defect, dysmorphic facial features.”

These words cut me to my core and left a painful gaping hole in my heart.

Dysmorphic facial features.

What? Are you trying to hurt my feelings?

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. How could she describe my beautiful daughter as dysmorphic?

Hypotonia in all major muscles.

So what if she was a little weaker than other babies? She could still catch up and get stronger.

Congenital mid line defect.

Mid line defect refers to the abnormalities associated with the fact that the neural tube failed to close properly when the baby was developing during the first trimester of pregnancy.

I hate that term. Mid line defect. I guess because it has the word defect in it and in turn implies that my girl was born defective. Like some sort of toy or kitchen gadget that fails to work properly when you plug it in. I couldn’t just return my girl to the factory and demand a refund. I couldn’t look at God and say “Sorry. This one’s broken. Send me a new one.”

Satisfaction is not guaranteed with children and I refuse to view my daughter as defective.

I told you I was sensitive.

Microcephaly.

She has an unusually small head. I pointed out to the doctor that I seem to also have a small head. I told her that I was able to wear my 9 year old step daughter’s bike helmet. Although, my husband has a huge melon (sorry honey) and I would think that between the two of us it would have balanced her out genetically.

She explained that while Oli was probably prone to having a smaller head because of me, it was more than that. Oli’s head measured below the 5th percentile on the growth chart.

“What does that mean in terms of her development?” I asked quietly.

“It can mean any number of things. She could develop normally or it could mean some mental retardation. Usually with microcephaly we tend to see some form of MR.” She replied honestly with sympathy in her voice.

That was when the fear for Oli’s future really took hold. I was already terrified of her facing the world without any sight but, now I had to think about her learning capacities as well.

Combined with all of the other things we had learned about her, it was starting to look like my girl was not just blind.

Where do you look when someone doesn’t have eyes?

8 Feb

“what you need and what you want aren’t the same things,”

― Cherise Sinclair, The Dom’s Dungeon

Three weeks after we took Oli to LA to get her first pair of conformers we took her back to get her second pair. She was very fortunate because her right eye (the empty socket) actually stretched a considerable amount. The ocularist was able to fit her with a conformer twice the size of the first one. Sometimes conformer therapy just doesn’t work and kids are never able to wear them.

“So. . .Mr. Haddad, when are you going to lose the awful pegs and put flat painted conformers in? Next month? A couple of months at most, right?” I am incredibly impatient.

“No. It will actually be 2-3 more months before I can put a flat conformer in that right eye. It’s just too small. I wouldn’t be able to get it in or out of her eye without that peg. And she will probably be close to her first birthday before we put painted ones in that look like real eyes.” He explains quietly.

“Oh. That long huh? I guess that’s okay.” I almost start crying.

I was screaming inside my head,

No. No. No! That’s is absolutely not okay. I want to look into her eyes! Fake or not. I should be able to look into her eyes!

Where do you look when you are speaking to someone if you can’t look into their eyes?

To me, eye contact was very important. It showed people that I was paying attention, interested in what they were saying, and respectful. I could gauge their feelings and reactions to what I was saying when I looked into their eyes.

I had to learn with Oli that I could still do all of these things with her, in a different way.

I learned the delicate map of her facial expressions. The raise of her eyebrows and the little bit of furrow between them when she was listening. Her toothless smile, scrunched up nose and the turn of her head when she was happy.

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Her tightly pursed lips turned down at the corners when she was sad.

I learned to look at her whole face and body language to gauge her reactions and feelings. I learned to read her without making eye contact, but with the complete confidence that I knew her emotions.

I learned that I really didn’t need to see her eyes to make a connection with her.

I learned all of this. . .but it never changed the fact that I wanted her to have eyes. Real eyes, fake eyes, glass eyes, plastic eyes. I didn’t care. I wanted her to have them.

Oli is just a little quirky.

3 Feb

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“Sometimes you just need to look at life from a different perspective.” -Unknown

As the first few days of Oli’s life turned into the first few weeks, results began to trickle in from Oliana’s many tests. And I do mean trickle. Sometimes it seemed to take forever to hear anything back. I guess I can sum up what most of those tests found by saying, they were pretty normal, except… not completely.

My sweet Oli is just kind of quirky.

The cardiologist said that her echo was normal except for a few things. Oli’s first quirk. The right ventricle in her heart was a little larger than normal and there was a small hole in her heart that should have closed when she was born, except that it didn’t. It was very minor.

She had a repeat pelvic ultrasound to check her kidneys. They still had extra fluid in them and then the doctor threw in a bonus quirk. She had 2 uterus’s.

What? I’d never heard of that either.

I was starting to think that I should have paid more attention in nursing school.

Of course, as soon as I got home I Googled “two uteruses”.

Have I mentioned how much I love Google?

Apparently this is not all that uncommon.

Google told me that the there were two draw backs.

Sometimes when a woman with two uterus’s gets pregnant the baby can be born preterm because the uterus’s do not stretch to the size of one normal uterus. The baby runs out of room.

The second draw back was that it is possible for a woman to get pregnant at two different times and have pseudo twins. A baby in each uterus.

Well, Google. I’d say those are pretty big drawbacks!!!

A trip to the endocrinologist revealed that her pituitary labs were normal, except her pituitary gland did not look normal on the MRI. He said that her posterior pituitary gland was ectopic. Which just means that it wasn’t in the spot that it was supposed to be. Oli has had a few more MRI’s since then and I have heard many different opinions about how her pituitary looks.

Is it moving? Changing? Mutating? I have no idea.

I don’t think anyone really has a definitive answer as to what is wrong with the appearance of that gland.

I told you she was quirky.

The rest of the MRI results were normal except….(Yep. You guessed it) for a few things.

Apparently she did not have an optic chiasm or a pineal gland.

Are those important?

Here is what Google tells me about these VERY important pieces of her body.

1543,Visalius'OpticChiasma (2)
The optic chiasm or optic chiasma (Greek χίασμα, “crossing”, from the Greek χιάζω ‘to mark with an X’, after the Greek letter ‘Χ’, chi) is the part of the brain where the optic nerves (CN II) partially cross. The optic chiasm is located at the bottom of the brain immediately below the hypothalamus.

The images on the nasal sides of each retina cross over to the opposite side of the brain via the optic nerve at the optic chiasm. The temporal images, on the other hand, stay on the same side. This allows the images from either side of the field from both eyes to be transmitted to the appropriate side of the brain, combining the sides together. This allows for parts of both eyes that attend to the right visual field to be processed in the left visual system in the brain, and vice versa. This is linked to skin sensation which also reaches the opposite side of the body, after reaching the diencephalon (rear forebrain). This decussation (crossing) is an adaptive feature of frontally oriented eyes and therefore having binocular vision. (Some animals, with laterally positioned eyes, have little binocular vision, so there is a more complete crossover of visual signals.)

Beyond the optic chiasm, with crossed and uncrossed fibers, the optic nerves become optic tracts. The signals are passed on to the lateral geniculate body, in turn giving them to the occipital cortex (the outer matter of the rear brain).[2]

250px-Illu_pituitary_pineal_glandsThe pineal gland (also called the pineal body, epiphysis cerebri, epiphysis, conarium or the “third eye”) is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. It produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions.[1][2] Its shape resembles a tiny pine cone (hence its name), and it is located near the centre of the brain, between the two hemispheres, tucked in a groove where the two rounded thalamic bodies join.

The MRI also showed that her optic nerves are so extremely small that they can hardly be visualized. In a few years, they weren’t visualized at all.

And that folks is one reason why my girl does not see and a BIG reason why she does not sleep!

Stop picking her apart!

1 Feb

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

Delicious Ambiguity.”

― Gilda Radner

Driving home from Dr. Hyun’s office that day my brain felt like it had shifted into overdrive. I was calling all of the doctor offices and the medical center trying to schedule Oli for her appointments, MRI and lab draw. Flipping through my appointment calendar I remembered that I also had to call Nevada Early Intervention Services and schedule an appointment with them. NEIS serves the special needs children in the Las Vegas and surrounding areas that are under the age of 3. After age 3 the children transition into the school district.

No one had recommended that I call NEIS. I just happened to remember referring some of my patients to them while reading off their discharge instructions.

I’m thankful that I knew of them and knew that they might be able to offer us some help. To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what they did. I just knew that when I had a patient going home that might have some developmental delays we told them to call NEIS.

A woman from the front office answered my call and set up an evaluation for the following week. She told me to bring Oliana to the appointment and they would look at her and decide which services she would benefit from.

I hung up the phone and was proud of myself for finally doing something for her instead of just worrying about all of the things that I couldn’t do.

Later that day a woman I worked with contacted me and offered to come out to my house to look at Oli. She was a neonatal nurse practitioner in the NICU I worked at and she also occasionally worked with the pediatric genetic doctor in Las Vegas. She told me that if she came out and did her own evaluation of Oli she might be able to submit it to the doctor and get her in earlier than the 6-9 months that we were told. I was more than happy to comply.

When she came out to the house she began the physical exam. She laid Oli down on a small flowered blanket and began measuring every inch of her body with a little fabric measuring tape. I was not prepared for the onslaught of abnormalities that were revealed to me during that evaluation.

Her little ears were too floppy.

Her eyes were too far apart.

Her eye brows were not level.

The bridge of her petite nose was too wide.

Her nipples were too far apart.

The space between her delicate fingers was too wide. (What? Why does that even matter?)

Her peach fuzz covered head was too small.

Her physical tone was too weak.

The list went on and on….

I just wanted to scream at her.

Stop! Stop! I don’t want to hear any more!

This is my child! My perfect little angel and you are picking her apart!

What child could possibly measure perfectly according to your standards?

Please, just stop!

Leave my baby alone!

But she didn’t stop because I couldn’t yell any of those things. I just let her continue until she was finished and I was completely defeated.

Then she got into her car and left and I picked Oli up and cried.

I didn’t want to pick her up.

24 Jan

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” -Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

I, however, was not so willing to accept my destiny. I wanted to fight it, change it, punish it, scream at it, plead with it, bargain with it….Anything but, accept it.

I was left alone at the hospital with Oli when Seth had to go and drop Kekoa off back with his Grandma. She was sleeping peacefully in her little clear plastic bassinet beside my bed. I turned on the TV for a little distraction. This turned out to be a very bad idea.

I started watching the new mommy/baby show that is on the hospital channel. I guess I felt like torturing myself for a little while. Watching all those cute babies and learning about their development. They were smiling and cooing at the camera. Their big eyes filled with the wonderment of the new world they’ve just been introduced to.

Would my daughter ever smile at a camera and coo like a normal baby?

Would she even live long enough to achieve this level of development?

These were the earth shattering questions that I felt the need to ponder at this moment. Watching all those beautiful babies I started looking at my own beautiful tiny baby girl. Beautiful but, different.

And then I was afraid of her.

This little 6 pound peanut. I was suddenly afraid of her. How could I possibly take her home and care for her? How could I teach her? I had never even met a blind person before.
I looked back up at the television monitor and wished with all of my heart that I could just reach through that screen and grab one of those babies. I wanted to replace her with one of them. One I wasn’t afraid of. I looked at her again.

I didn’t want to pick her up.

But, then I did pick her up. Because that’s what mothers do. We pick up our children and love them. Even when they don’t fit into our perfect little box of what we thought we wanted. We pick them up and love them because they are our babies.

Her eyes were closed

21 Jan

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

 

 

Oliana entered this world on May 10, 2007 with her eyes closed.  I never got to look into my baby girls eyes and form that instant bond with a ‘Hey! I know you! You’re the one I’ve been loving since the day I peed on that stick!’ 

Her eyes were closed because they were fused shut. They had not developed.  Severe bilateral microphthalmia.  That’s what it says on all of her paperwork.  It probably should have been etched on her forehead for all the times we referred to her as having “it”.  This had become who she was to me and to people around her.  My baby with severe bilateral microphthalmia.  Somehow these 3 words would become as familiar rolling off my tongue as her first name.  Which is very very wrong.  But that’s what it was.  She had become not my new baby girl.  But my baby girl born blind.  Born with severe bilateral microphthalmia.  She had no eyes.  These words were repeated over and over in my head during the next few months.

 

The moment the doctor said blindness, the little blond haired, brown eyed girl I had been dreaming about for 9 months died.  She died and I didn’t know that I was allowed to grieve for her.  I thought I had to become this perfect mother of a special needs child.  I could not allow the outside world to know that I was hurting so terribly inside.  In place of the little girl I had lost was this tiny baby with blond peach fuzz on her head and no eyes.  A baby I didn’t think I was capable of taking care of, nor did I know if I wanted.  I knew I could never abandon her.- (gasp) What would the neighbors think?-  But I didn’t know if I would be able to love her like I loved my son.  Because she was different.  If she didn’t have eyes what else was wrong with her?  Was her little brain a mess too?  What if she never walked or talked or could eat on her own? What if she never went to college or got married.  Even more horrifying, what if I had to take care of her for the rest of my life?  No. They got it wrong.  It has to be wrong!  I never signed up for this.  I ordered the little cute blond girl with pigtails in her hair and brown eyes to match mine.  I remember the day I got married.  I signed a bunch of documents including a marriage certificate, a give-up-your-last-name-and-assume-your-husbands-identity- page, and I definitely signed the one where you check the box under, you will have a happy life with rainbows and butterflies raising 2.5 HEALTHY children.  Not a disability.  I DEFINITELY did NOT check that box!! They delivered the wrong baby girl.

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